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Nov 26, 2012 | 17:20 GMT

Russia's Current and Prospective Trade Partners

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Russia's Current and Prospective Trade Partners

Russia is reassessing its relationships with many countries in the Middle East and South Asia. Some long-established relationships, such as those with Syria and Iran, are currently being tested, while ties with other countries like Iraq and Pakistan could become more important. Broadly speaking, these countries fit into three main categories: those that are important to Russia primarily for commercial reasons, those that pose direct security concerns for Russia, and those that are important for Russia in maintaining leverage over the United States and the West. Some of these countries fit into more than one category. Turkey is by far Russia's most important trading partner in the region, a relationship that is buoyed by Russia's significant oil and natural gas exports to Turkey. Russia also exports weapons and military supplies to India, Iran, Syria and Algeria. For example, Russia sells anti-tank missiles to Iran and Syria, and it has sold submarines and bomber aircraft to India and Algeria. How these relationships develop will depend on numerous ongoing trends in the region, such as the political changes resulting from the Arab Spring and the looming U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Another key dynamic that could change Russia's position is Iraq's potential re-emergence as a major oil exporter. As one of the leading oil exporters in the world, Russia has an interest in limiting its competition or at least being involved in other countries' energy sectors. This explains Russian energy companies' involvement in oil exploration and drilling in many of Iraq's oil fields. Other countries like Algeria, Libya and Qatar pose potential challenges to Russia's energy position as the liquefied natural gas market becomes larger and more cost-efficient. The region will therefore be instrumental in shaping Russia's global energy strategy.

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